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A Macro-Finance Approach to Sovereign Debt Spreads and Returns

Fabrice Tourre
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Fabrice Tourre: University of Chicago

No 13, 2017 Meeting Papers from Society for Economic Dynamics

Abstract: Foreign currency sovereign bond spreads tend to be higher than historical sovereign credit losses, and cross-country spread correlations are larger than their macro-economic counterparts. Foreign currency sovereign debt exhibits positive and time-varying risk premia, and standard linear asset pricing models using US-based factors cannot be rejected. The term structure of sovereign credit spreads is upward sloping, and inverts when either (a) the country's fundamentals are bad or (b) measures of US equity or credit market stress are high. I develop a quantitative and tractable continuous-time model of endogenous sovereign default in order to account for these stylized facts. My framework leads to semi-closed form expressions for certain key macro-economic and asset pricing moments of interest, helping disentangle which of the model features influences credit spreads, expected returns and cross-country correlations. Standard pricing kernels used to explain properties of US equity returns can be nested into my quantitative framework in order to test the hypothesis that US-based bond investors are marginal in sovereign debt markets. I show how to leverage my model to study the early 1980's Latin American debt crisis, during which high short term US interest rates and floating rate dollar-denominated debt led to a wave of sovereign defaults.

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dge and nep-his
Date: 2017
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